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July 4th Hearing Protection: Have a (Safe) Blast

ASHA Offers Tips for Home-Based Fireworks Celebrations

July 1, 2020

(Rockville, MD) With some large events being cancelled this year and many Americans still sheltering at home, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is encouraging the public to take steps to protect their hearing if they are planning their own fireworks celebrations this Independence Day.

Sales of consumer fireworks are up over previous years, according to a number of large fireworks companies. Fireworks and firecrackers can be as loud as 150 decibels—significantly louder than what is considered a safe listening level (75–80 decibels). That’s louder than a jackhammer or jet plane takeoff.

“This year, people who choose to celebrate at home with fireworks and noisemakers may be exposed to sound levels well beyond what they would experience at a larger event, which already can be very loud. This could increase their risk of hearing damage if they don’t take steps to protect themselves,” said ASHA 2020 President Theresa H. Rodgers, MA, CCC-SLP.

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is completely preventable. However, once it occurs, it is irreversible. The louder the noise, the less time it takes to damage one’s hearing. Although NIHL can result from consistent exposure to loud noise, such as listening to earbuds or headphones regularly at high volumes, it also can occur from just one exposure to a very loud “impulse” sound like an explosion.

By taking basic precautionary measures, which apply to large public gatherings as well as small ones, people can protect themselves:

  1. Use hearing protection. Basic earplugs, which can be picked up at most drug stores, offer good hearing protection for most teens and adults. Children are generally better off wearing well-fitting earmuffs instead of earplugs.
  1. Keep a safe distance. Stand at least 500 feet away from noise sources, such as speakers or a fireworks launch site. The closer you are, the more likely you are to hurt your ears.
  1. Know your limits. If you are experiencing ringing in your ears or any other ear discomfort, leave the noisy situation. Listen to your body!
  1. Help children appreciate their hearing. Talk with your children beforehand about the risk involved and the importance of protecting their ears. Model those good behaviors.

ASHA also encourages some neighborly consideration. “People may be sensitive to fireworks and other loud noises for a variety of reasons. Giving those who live near you some advanced warning of your plans could be very helpful,” Rodgers noted.

Anyone who continues to experience pain or ringing in the ears, or who is having difficulty hearing, should contact a certified audiologist for a hearing evaluation. Learn more at www.asha.org/public.

About the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)

ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for 211,000 members and affiliates who are audiologists; speech-language pathologists; speech, language, and hearing scientists; audiology and speech-language pathology support personnel; and students. Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing and balance disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment, including hearing aids. Speech-language pathologists identify, assess, and treat speech and language problems, including swallowing disorders.


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